The school district is hoping to convert the old UFV site into a new arts and technology school, but the hopes of opening by September 2020 are fading. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

New Chilliwack arts school may be waiting in the wings

District hoped to open school at old UFV site by September 2020

The possibility that Chilliwack students could enrol in a fine arts and tech school by September 2020 may be slipping away.

The project is not moving forward as quickly as the district had hoped, potentially pushing off its opening for a full school year. That information came out of discussions at the board table on Tuesday night, following a vote on the Five Year Capital Plan.

One of the items on that plan is the new school planned for the old UFV Theatre site. The Ministry of Education (MoE) has shown support for the project and has asked the district for a draft Project Definition Report. The capital plan was set for three readings on Tuesday night, providing all seven trustees voted in favour of moving along with the plan.

However, Trustee Barry Neufeld voted against lumping all three readings together, saying it was unclear what they were voting on. Other trustees pointed to the document Neufeld said was missing, but to no avail. They moved ahead for a traditional first and second reading, with Neufeld being the sole opponent in those votes as well.

After that discussion, Secretary Treasurer Gerry Slykhuis noted that the arts school project is behind schedule.

READ MORE: Public consultation kicks off for new Chilliwack arts school

But it’s not the only hiccup in the plan to move forward with the new arts school. Trustee Dan Coulter said there are “lots of moving parts” that are making it difficult to hurry the project along. The new school would help with some overburdened school sites in Chilliwack.

“The main reason is that we are still waiting for funding approval from the Ministry of Education for the renovations and gymnasium,” Slykhuis told The Progress following the meeting. “We needed to have approval very early in order to meet the September 2020 date. We are still assessing our timelines, but September 2020 is looking unlikely.”

Three other capital projects are wrapped up in that Five Year Capital Plan, which will come to the board again on April 30.

They include a new Chilliwack elementary site acquisition, which the MoE needs documentation for before the district can purchase the land. It’s unclear if a site has been chosen yet, as land acquisition talks are held in-camera.

There are also additions being planned for G.W. Graham secondary and Vedder elementary. Both of those projects have deadlines that are in the fall and winter of 2019.

Some of the work in the Five Year Capital Plan are already underway, including renovations at several sites. They are the new playground at Unsworth elementary, a building enclosure at McCammom elementary, a dust collector upgrade at Sardis secondary (to conform to new provincial standards) and a building envelope upgrade at Sardis elementary.

Slykhuis also presented a basic overview of the budget, reminding the audience that there will be a public budget presentation at the next board meeting, April 30.


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